by Stephen Baskerville
FULL ARTICLE HERE
Challenges in the Western world
The sexual agenda is today’s greatest threat to religious freedom in the developed
world. Campaigns for women’s and homosexual rights, same-sex marriage, public
education, and other issues related to family and sexuality have provoked the preponderance
of cases, and proponents have described Christian and other religious
principles as direct impediments to their agenda. But what has precipitated most
cases is the increasing role of the state in previously private areas of life, leading
to claims that freedom must be curtailed when it involves government officials
providing public services. This too proceeds from the sexual agenda, because such
state services arise from the breakdown of family life, where they were previously
performed. Critical here is the state’s claim to redefine marriage, less through samesex
marriage than divorce, which itself represents a long-standing threat to religious
freedom. Growing state power over family life and sexuality has also been transferred
to supranational organizations, where many clashes between sexual militants and
religious believers now arise.
The greatest threat to religious freedom – and therefore to freedom generally – in
the Western world today is the sexual agenda. It may eventually prove to be the
greatest in the world, though this remains to be seen.
Most serious cases of curtailing religious expression and practice in the West
today involve sexual and family matters: women’s rights, homosexuality, marriage,
education, plus others that the media and even religious freedom advocates ignore.
Even conflicts that appear to be between religions or cultures, such as religiously
mandated clothing in Western countries, usually involve components of sexual and
family life, such as the role of women or of public education.
Even the United Nations Economic and Social Council, observing that “Christianity
is…under pressure from a form of secularism, particularly in Europe,” attests
that, “This form of prejudice against Christians or ideas based on religion, which
exists both in Europe and in the United States, mainly concerns questions relating
to sex, marriage, and the family, on which the Catholic, Muslim, and Orthodox
churches have taken stands.”
Yet it is striking how difficult it seems for this obvious truth to be stated, even by
religious freedom advocates. It is not difficult to see why. Sexual issues are the third
rail of today’s politics.
Indeed, it is clear that we are now arriving at that point where an unstoppable
force meets an immovable object. Sexual militants with expansive definitions of
“discrimination,” “inequality,” and even “violence” have arrived at a direct confrontation
with – and even claim the authority to silence – Christians and others
whose consciences will not permit them to implement, participate in, endorse, or
acquiesce in government policy concerning family life: state employees, contractors,
entrepreneurs, parents, and ordinary citizens. Something must “give.”
The general assumption is that one or the other of the two groups must give
way, since it is increasingly apparent that no accommodation is possible. The often
unspoken inference is that what must yield is religious belief and practice. Another
UN body makes clear its view that no middle ground is possible and that religious
freedom is simply incompatible with sexual liberation. “In all countries, the most
significant factors inhibiting women’s ability to participate in public life have been
the cultural framework of values and religious beliefs,” insists a UN committee.
“True gender equality [does] not allow for varying interpretations of obligations
under international legal norms depending on internal religious rules, traditions,
and customs.” The conclusion is that those whose religious rules, traditions, and
customs conflict with the UN committee’s view of women’s rights, must find new
religious rules, traditions, and customs.
But there is another dimension to the problem which those on both sides prefer
to ignore. This is the role of the state, whose expansion into new areas of life has
largely precipitated this confrontation. It has also precipitated others, and what we
are seeing here is only one facet of a larger crisis of the modern state. The clash
between sexual militants and religious believers therefore presents an opportunity
for Western civilization to come to terms with its larger problems.
Moreover, it is clearly in the interests of believers to do so. The erosion of religious
freedom in the West is gradual, like the proverbial frog in the kettle. Without a
decided response, Christians will not only be “marginalized,” as many already complain;
they will lose their most basic freedoms, as will others. Only by raising the
stakes and confronting the expanding scope of government power can Christians
and others provoke the needed public debate on the erosion of freedom.